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Latest obesity figures for England show a strong link between children living with obesity and deprivation: statistical press release

The prevalence of reception-aged children living with obesity in England during 2021-22 was over twice as high in the most deprived areas (13.6%) than in the least deprived areas (6.2%).

The prevalence of reception-aged children living with obesity1 in England during 2021-22 was over twice as high in the most deprived areas (13.6%)2 than in the least deprived areas (6.2%)3.

This difference is also seen in year 6 children - with 31.3% living with obesity in the most deprived areas compared with 13.5% in the least deprived areas.

Published by NHS Digital, the National Child Measurement Programme, England – 2021-224 report found that the prevalence of reception-aged children living with severe obesity was over three times as high for children living in the most deprived areas (4.5%) than for children living in the least deprived areas (1.3%).

Similarly, the prevalence of year 6 children living with severe obesity was over four times as high for children living in the most deprived areas (9.4%) compared with those living in the least deprived areas (2.1%).

The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP)5 – overseen by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities and analysed and reported by NHS Digital – measures the height and weight of children in England annually6 and provides data on the number of children in reception and year 6 who are underweight, healthy weight, overweight, living with obesity or living with severe obesity. 


Geography7:

The prevalence of reception-aged children living with obesity in 2021-22 was highest in the North East (11.4%) and the West Midlands (11.3%).  It was lowest in the South East (8.7%), South West (8.9%) and East of England (9.2%).

For year 6, the prevalence of children living with obesity was highest in the North East (26.6%), the West Midlands (26.2%) and London (25.8%). It was lowest for year 6 children in the South West (19.8%), the South East (20.0%) and the East of England (21.4%).

Underweight prevalence was highest in London for reception-aged children at 1.9% and year 6 at 1.7%.

The prevalence of children living with obesity varied by local authority8. For reception-aged children, this ranged from 5.4% in Richmond upon Thames to 14.9% in Sandwell. In year 6 the range was from 12.4% in Surrey, to 34.0% in Sandwell.

The prevalence of children living with obesity was highest in urban areas for both age groups: 10.4% in reception and 24.4% in year 6.


Time series9:

The prevalence of reception-aged children living with obesity had been relatively stable since 2006-07, but it saw a 4.6 percentage point increase from 9.9% in
2019-20 to 14.4% in 2020-21, the main year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This latest data shows a decrease to 10.1% in 2021-22 which is 0.4 percentage points above the pre-pandemic figure from 2018-19.

For year 6, the prevalence of children living with obesity increased slowly from 19.0% in 2010-11 to 21.0% in 2019-20 and then increased by 4.5 percentage points to 25.5% in 2020-21.

This latest data shows a decrease to 23.4% in 2021-22 which is 3.2 percentage points above the pre-pandemic figure from 2018-19.


Ethnicity:

The prevalence of children living with obesity in 2021-22 was highest for Black children in both reception (16.2%) and year 6 (33.0%). It was lowest for Chinese children in both reception (4.5%) and year 6 (17.7%).

Underweight prevalence was highest for Asian children in both reception (4.3%) and year 6 (3.3%).

ENDS  

Read the full report

 

Notes for editors

  1. The BMI classification of each child is derived by calculating the child’s BMI centile and classifying as follows: 

    • BMI centile <=2: Underweight
    • BMI centile >2 and <85: Healthy weight
    • BMI centile >=85 and <95: Overweight
    • BMI centile >=95: Living with obesity
    • BMI centile >=99.6: Living with severe obesity. (Note: “Living with severe obesity” is a subset of “Living with obesity”. Children with a BMI centile of between 95 and 100 are classified as “Living with obesity” and those with a BMI centile of between 99.6 and 100 are classified as “Living with severe obesity”).
  2. Time series comparisons from 2006/07 are provided for deprivation based on where the child attends school and from 2013/14 for deprivation based on where the child lives. This is because there were issues with the quality and completeness of the child postcode in the early years of NCMP.

  3. Comparisons between groups and over time have been statistically tested to determine whether differences are likely to be genuine (i.e., statistically significant) or the result of random natural variation. Only statistically significant differences have been described with terms such as ’higher’, ’lower’, ’increase’ or ’decrease’. When a comparison does not show a statistically significant difference, this is described using terms such as ‘similar to’ or ’the same as’. 

  4. The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) was launched in the 2005-06 academic year and now holds 16 years of reliable data. 2006-07 is the first year that the data is considered to be robust due to the low participation in 2005-06, so this is the earliest year that comparable data for obesity prevalence among reception-aged children is available. 2009-10 is the first year that the obesity prevalence figures are robust for year 6 schoolchildren.

  5. The NCMP is a key element of the Government’s approach to tackling child obesity by annually measuring over one million children and providing reliable data on the prevalence of children living with obesity. Children are measured in reception (aged 4–5 years) and year 6 (aged 10–11 years) in mainstream state-maintained schools in England. Independent and special schools are excluded from the analyses in this publication.

  6. Data is collected primarily in mainstream state-maintained schools in England. Any data collected from independent or special schools is excluded from this analysis. Local Authorities measure children during the school year with the programme running between September and August each year to coincide with the academic year.

  7. Geographical analyses in this report are primarily based on the postcode of the child’s home address. Some time series analyses use the school postcode as the child postcode was poorly populated in the early years of the NCMP and these are labelled in the report.

  8. Local authority data reported here is by the upper tier local authority where the child lives. Data is also provided in the report for lower tier local authorities.

  9. The NCMP usually measures the height and weight of over one million children in England annually. In 2020-21, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic disrupting the collection, a sample of 300,000 children were measured. Statistical weighting has been applied to the data to ensure the sample is reflective of the population measured by NCMP in England in previous years and comparable. Details of this are in the Methodology and Data Quality section of the 2021-22 publication.




Last edited: 10 November 2022 4:59 pm